Andrew Gilliland – 19 Apr, 2021 General

In May 2020, Twitter became one of the first major companies to publicly announce its plans to offer employees the option of permanent remote working. The company had been taking steps in this direction since 2018, even granting relocation requests allowing engineers to move permanently from headquarters in San Francisco to exotic and far-flung locations such as Hawaii and rural Ireland.

Since Twitter’s announcement last year, a growing list of companies have followed suit. The trend, initially fuelled by COVID-19 restrictions, is set to continue with studies confirming that workers are keen to retain remote working options after Covid restrictions ease. Ian Hunter, Director, West Coast at OCO Global highlighted in the article “The final season of The American Office?” earlier this month, that more than 40% of US millennials, now the largest generation in the workforce, now say flexibility to work from anywhere is a priority when considering job opportunities. [1] With this reality, it is likely that more companies will follow in offering permanent remote working options as they compete to attract and retain talent.

Workers are ready to act on opportunities granted by work-from-anywhere policies

The trend towards permanent remote working or work-from-anywhere policies opens the door to a new wave of “digital nomads” – remote working, location independent workers not bound by the need to live a commutable distance from the office. In the UK, research from Totaljobs {2) indicates that workers are ready to grasp this new freedom, with 43% of Londoners stating that flexible working offered by their employer would encourage them to up sticks and move elsewhere. More broadly across the UK, there are signs that COVID-19 could spark an ‘urban exodus’ with workers increasingly moving to the countryside; over a quarter of people living in urban locations have been working from home since the outbreak of COVID-19, and don’t want to return to working in their city office.

“In a world where you can work from anywhere, why not here?” – Locate Isle of Man

Around the world, national and local governments have seen opportunity in the rise of Work-From-Anywhere. Diverse locations including Estonia, Iceland, Croatia, Barbados, the Canary Islands and the Isle of Man have all launched campaigns aimed at attracting remote workers, some specifically designed to combat damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the last year, a list of countries has launched special visas aimed at attracting remote workers. The Estonian government hopes to increase the country’s working population and reputation as an e-state by offering a ‘Digital Nomad Visa’ targeting non-European remote-working employees or freelancers to come and live and work in the country. Similarly, Barbados launched a 12 Month ‘Barbados Welcome Stamp visa’ allowing people whose work is location independent to work remotely from the island. Iceland and Croatia are just two more examples of countries to have announced similar schemes.

“We’ll pay you to work from Tulsa. You’re going to love it here” – Tulsa Remote

The incentives do not end with visas and the prospect of a year spent working on a beachfront. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a programme delivered by a private, non-profit foundation offers remote workers $10,000 to relocate to the state’s second-largest city. The programme, which has been hugely successful since its initial launch in 2018, aims to help fuel growth in the city through an influx of individuals with a high level of disposable income. In addition to the headline financial incentive, Tulsa Remote offers a free desk in a coworking space, a welcoming community and house prices 43% below the national average. Similar programmes have popped up across the United States. Mirroring the Remote Tulsa initiative, the Northwest Arkansas Council is investing $1 million over six months to attract top talent to the region through the Life Works Here initiative, offering successful applicants $10,000 and a new mountain bike to relocate in the area. In Arizona, Startup Tuscan’s pilot program, Remote Tucson, is inviting talented remote workers to come to the state’s second city. Successful applicants will receive cash, exclusive benefits and moving assistance valued at over $7,500. [3]

In the Canary Islands, the regional government last year launched a €500,000 international campaign aimed at attracting 30,000 remote workers in a bid to compensate for the loss in tourists in 2020. The Minister of Tourism, Yaiza Castilla, believes the Canary Islands have the perfect mix of quality of life, a good climate, lower cost of living and good broadband connectivity to attract teleworkers from all over Europe.

Attracting remote workers to the UK regions?

Strategies like these could be replicated in countries, regions and cities around the world as the growth of Work-From-Anywhere continues. Attracting a wave of highly skilled remote workers with high levels of disposable income could provide a welcome economic injection for local governments striving to kickstart their Covid recovery. Could we see Local Enterprise Partnerships in the UK launching their bids to attract those Londoners ready to ‘escape to the country’?

OCO Global works with national and regional Investment Promotion Agencies to develop investment and economic development strategies, facilitating investment and creating jobs.

 

[1] See blog from my colleague, Ian Hunter looking at the future of the office.

{2} The HR Director: Migration from London as 1.6m plan move out of capital, Sep 2020

[3] Lonely Planet: Travel News, Would you relocate for $10,000?, Jan 2021

[4] Read more about the Work-from-Anywhere Future and what this means for business from the December 2020 edition of the Harvard Business Review here